Growth hacking is one of the biggest marketing trends of 2015. Everybody wants to know what it is all about, and how it can help them grow their business.

Most articles you’ll find across the web are focused on growing SaaS (Service as a Service) businesses. That means you won’t find many ecommerce growth hacks to grow your ecommerce store. It’s not because you can’t use growth hacks in an ecommerce store. It’s just because most people work for SaaS businesses, nothing else.

In this post, I’m going to give you 3 e-commerce growth hacks that you can start using today to boost your ecommerce store sales and revenue.

1. Build a Simple Referral System

There’s a famous marketing quote that says “it’s easier to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a new one.”

That’s a great quote, but what about your customer’s friends? They trust them, they like them, they listen to them. If you gave your current customers a way to take advantage of that, they will most certainly tell their friends about your company (considering that your company provides real value to your customer’s problems).

In fact, according to the Nielsen Global Trust In Advertising Survey, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends.

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Still, most businesses don’t build a referral system because they think it can be a quite complicated and tedious thing to do.

However, I don’t want you to have any excuses, so let me show you how you can build a referral system for your ecommerce store in a few simple steps.

How to Build a Referral System

First Step: Define the Incentive

Think of the one thing your customers love and need about your product. It can be anything: free space (think Dropbox), a longer trial or better features – whatever you think it’s important to your customer.


To discover this, you have a few options:

  1. Talk to your customers, either by phone, chat, or through a survey
  2. Use the data your analytics tools give you
  3. See what your competitor’s offer

In any case, the incentive needs to be essential for the user, something they couldn’t resist.

Second Step: Sign Up to a Referral Service Company

Did you think you had to develop all the referral system by yourself? Think again.

Nowadays there are a few companies that offer simple systems to develop referral programs. No hussle needed.

Choose between any of these services, and sign up:

Any of those companies will easily let you develop, manage and track your referral programs.

Step Three: Communicate Your Offer

Finally, develop your referral system’s page, where you’ll explain what you offer to your customers. Remember to focus on the value your referral program provides. Think what your users (and their friends) will gain with it, and then explain in in the clearest, simplest way possible. Think on using an image to explain the idea of your referral program, or maybe a video, and if possible, try to add some testimonials.

Dropbox is known for its referral program, in which they offer their users an extra 500MB of free space for every new user they invite. The good news is that a user can invite up to 32 friends, which means they’ll get an extra 16GB of free space.

Even if 32 friends seems to be a lot, think the benefits that both the user and their respective friends get: one gets free space (possibly the most important feature Dropbox has), whereas their friends get the opportunity to learn about a new service that provides real value to their lives. 

There are dozens of companies that have developed a referral system. In every case, the referral system is a win-win for both the user and their friends. 

2. Upsell Your Customers

Keeping the idea of the previous growth hack, instead of trying to sell products to new customers, why don’t you try to sell more to your current customers? 

That’s where the idea of upsell comes from. Upselling is a sales technique where you offer your customers the chance to purchase upgrades (better features, better specifications, more volume) or to get the more expensive version of what they’re buying so you can maximize the value of their purchase (higher price). 

The key point here is that you offer items that can add value or improve the user experience of your client. The question now is how do you upsell your customers? Fortunately, there are a couple of useful tools that will help you do this.

How to Upsell Your Customers 

First Step: Make a List of All Your Products

Grab an Excel sheet, and write all your products. Include their names, prices, categories, and any other thing you may be useful for categorizing later. Seriously, do it now. Don’t overthink this. If you have hundreds of products, then write the ones, or the ones. If you have hundreds of products, then write the ones, or the ones. If you have hundreds of products, then write the best selling ones, or the most profitable ones.

Second Step: Define Related Products

With that list, you’ll now try to connect them with other similar and related products. Create a column next to each product from the previous step, and define related products. But make sure they’re relevant.

 Do you sell shoes? Sell jeans that go with them. Do you sell tablets? Sell cases.

Remember: the goal of each upsell should be to add value to the customer. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the upsells should be more expensive.

Third Step: Publish the Upsell

Once you know what products to upsell, it’s time to publish them to your customers.

There are two places where you should add your upsells:

  1. In your product page
  2. In your checkout page


The first case is what Amazon does with their famous “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section, where they should similar but relevant products. The second case is commonly used by traveling companies, especially the airline companies, which offer class upgrades to their customers.


Unfortunately, there aren’t many tools that allow you to upsell your customers. One free tool that allows you to do that is Receiptful, an API that allows you to add upsells to your email receipts. (Disclaimer: I work for Receiptful.)

Most companies simply add automatic systems based on shopping algorithms to do this, so I’d suggest you talk to your company’s dev (or your favorite dev if you don’t have an in-house dev) and ask how you can add an upselling system to your website. 

3. Talk to Your Customers

So far we’ve been talking about acquiring more users through your current ones (referrals), and selling more to them based on what you think they’ll like (upselling). 

This last point is important. As an ecommerce store owner, you may tend to sell products based on what you think your customers will like. 

You may use different Google Analytics reports to see what are the best selling products (which is great), or what your competition sell (not so good, but OK), but still, neither methods tell you which products you currently don’t sell your customers would like to buy. 

What if I told you that you could ask your customers what you should be selling? 

I’m not joking. Ask your customers what they want, and they’ll tell you what you’ll sell. 

Some people will question that, and will use the famous but wrongly attributed quote of Henry Ford “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. 

Sure, in a way, if you ask your customers what’d they like, they’d tell you all sort of things that ultimately won’t lead to you selling more. 

However, the key is not to ask directly to them, but rather let them guide you. 

How to Ask Your Customers What They Want

There are a couple of ways you can talk to your customers to discover what they want. The best one, in my opinion, is through qualitative researchQualitative what?, you may be saying. Qualitative basically refers to analyzing the behavior and data that each customer gives you.

(If you work as an web analyst, please don’t kill me, I’m just trying to make it simple.)

There are two main ways to capture individual data:

  1. Through surveys
  2. Through live chats

Both work equally well.

Surveys work better when you want to know very specific things about your customers. 

For example, if you want to know when your customers use your products, then ask them through a survey. There are two great tools for surveying your customers. One is called Survey Monkey, and the other one is called Qualaroo.

The first one is used as a form for your customers to fill, and they’re send by email to each individual customer. They’re usually 3-5 questions long, although sometimes there can be more question (I’ve have received 15-20 question-surveys).

 However, if you are going to ask your customers, be concise. You want to help them, not annoy them. The second one is a “in-app” Survey. That is, you survey your customers as they shop through your store.

They’re usually one or two question long max. This is how they look:


That survey that you can see above shows at the bottom of your site, so it doesn’t disturb your customer’s shopping.

Live chats, on the other hand, are more suited for customer service. They are open ended personal conversations. The main benefit of live chats is that you’re helping your customers, and at the same time you get to know them better.One great tool for live chat is Olark. It works exactly as the in-app surveys, they show up at the bottom of the page.

In both cases, the important thing to remember is not to ask directly what they want, but rather let them guide you. And you do that by asking the right questions.

Let’s suppose you sell clothes and shoes. Some of the questions you can ask them are: 

  • What are your favourite fashion/clothing brands?
  • When do you use the clothes you buy at our store? Options: Work, Going Out with Friends, Travelling, etc. (In this case you give options to the user to choose.)
  • What’s your style? Options: Chic, Informal, Etc. (Again, in this case you give options to the user to choose. And yes, the options are completely made up.)
  • What’s one way in which we can improve your experience? (This is a broader one, not necessarily product-related.) 

Be careful when asking questions like “what else can we provide you with?” because customers will give you a wish list, yet they won’t always buy what they say they want. 

Remember: Your job is to find what your customers need and want, not the other way around.

Have you ever tried any of these 3 growth hacks before? Also, are there any growth hacks that you think I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments below.

Ivan Kreimer is the Growth Marketer at Receiptful, an API that lets you send beautiful email receipts that help increase an ecommerce store’s revenue with the usage of targeted, marketing messages and upsells.


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